Chat Transcript – July 22, 2018

briar_pipe

Hi everyone, and welcome to our First Candidate Chat of 2018!

In today’s chat you’ll have the opportunity to speak with all 4 Candidates: C. Ryan Smith, Lex de Leon, Michelle Schroeder, and Natalia Gruber.

My name is briar_pipe, and I’ll be hosting the candidate side today. On the audience /open_chat side, your host will be Judy. We’re both members of the Elections Committee.

Transcripts of the candidate side of the chat will be posted publicly on our website. The open_chat transcript will not be posted there, but both its transcripts will remain visible until after the election. During the chat, you may see candidates fix their typos; this is to make Elections Staff’s job easier later.

We will welcome your questions in just a moment. As the candidates discuss each question, audience members can notify Judy that you have questions for the candidates – either follow-ups or new questions – by raising your hand like this:

o/ (for new questions), or

o// (for follow-ups to the current question)

Judy will pass me the questions, and I will ask them during appropriate pauses in the conversation between the candidates.

Judy and I welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

– Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.

– Refer to everyone in the room by their username in this conversation. Don’t use other names you may know them by.

– Please keep questions reasonable and polite (these are our expectations: http://elections.transformativeworks.org/elections-process-behavior-expectations/).

– Make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the platforms (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2018/2018-bios-and-platforms/) or the Q&A (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2018/2018-qa/). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.

Ok, that’s it for the intro! We now welcome your questions for the candidates.

Our first question comes from a late Q&A submission.

The submitter asked, “Even if not called upon to use programming skills as part of board participating, a board member should be someone who understands the software/hardware/programming and IT support demands of AO3. Can you please share your experience or credentials in these areas?”

Candidates, what are your thoughts?

 

C. Ryan Smith

I am currently in school, working towards a degree in information technology actually. It’s still early days, so I really don’t have anywhere near the level of knowledge or experience to be useful to the AD&T or Systems Committees (the “technical” committees behind AO3). I’m more at the level of a hobbyist webmaster at the moment. I do a lot of work using WordPress and basic HTML/CSS in managed hosting environments. While I don’t understand the nitty gritty behind a majority of the AO3, I do understand it in a broader sense.

 

Lex de Leon

I have been working in the IT field since 2008. I started from the user end, learning the system that I now am the sysadmin for from the outside in. During my time, I have learned multiple languages, including shell scripting, Perl and Java, in addition to being called upon to plan out extensible and dynamic server infrastructure. I have worked on systems that we built up from bare metal, virtual systems, leased systems, have built my own home computers, and have called tech support. I have served in multiple roles, such as project manager, subject matter expert, and silent peon there to take notes while my boss ran the meeting. During my time in the IT field, I’ve worked with people of all walks and nationalities as well, from around the globe. I am platform agnostic – I use Windows, various *nix builds and iOS installations on the regular, though I normally only administrate Windows and Linux servers. I also store my personal archive of fic in a private git repository that is synced across my personal machines and my phone.

All this said, I absolutely will never understand how to use emacs. My love of vim is a personal failing, I’m sure.

 

Natalia Gruber

I think a basic understanding of how the Archive works is very helpful and important not just for Board members, but really for everyone working in an AO3 committee, such as Support, Policy & Abuse or Tag Wrangling.  However, maintaining the AO3 is not the sole goal of the Board, nor is it the Board purview to make coding decisions. 🙂

My personal knowledge of the tech aspects of the Archive  come mostly from spending time with and listening to the people responsible for this work, and I’m very happy to learn more and be advised by them.

 

Michelle Schroeder

I don’t think it’s necessary for a Board member to have a lot of software/hardware/programming skills. We have committees who specialize in these things, so as someone who has only basic knowledge in these areas, I would definitely turn to our wonderful Systems and AD&T committees for help understanding any issues before making any decisions involving software, hardware, programming, and IT.

 

briar_pipe

Thanks, everyone! Moving onward, our next question comes from the chat. “All candidates: What is your favourite thing about volunteering with OTW?”

 

Natalia Gruber

Both the amazing people I got to meet and make friends with over the years, and how much I got to learn being here! I’m a much more confident person now than I was a few years ago. <3

 

Michelle Schroeder

There are so many things I love about volunteering with the OTW that it’s hard to pick one thing to be my favourite! But I’d probably have to go with the people I’ve gotten to meet and work with during my time as a volunteer. I’ve learned a lot and made new friends, which has been great!

 

C. Ryan Smith

For me, it’s always been getting to know others within fandom and making new friendships. I still remember some of the people I volunteered with for the first time back in 2013 and think of them fondly. While I definitely said this in the last Q&A set, I’m really happy say that getting to know my fellow co-candidates has been an awesome experience and I’ve made some new friends I feel.

 

Lex de Leon

Being able to make a positive difference  to others has always been a driving force for me. I really like being able to help someone with a problem they have and resolve it. Additionally, being able to make new friends and forge lasting relationships within the OTW at large has been a huge positive in my own life.

 

C. Ryan Smith

I’d definitely echo what Nat said about learning new things as well! I feel like I’ve actually added some new skills that I can use in different settings. I know that I actually list my volunteer service on my resumé.

 

Lex de Leon

I particularly have greatly enjoyed being able to help out fellow volunteers with Support issues they have had! It definitely makes the thank you feel that much more impactful, and has led to me learning more about how the Archive works.

That’s a great point, Ryan, being able to list volunteer service on my resume is a fantastic bonus!

 

Michelle Schroeder

I also would agree with Lex – helping people with problems is part of why I joined up with the OTW as a volunteer in the first place, so that’s definitely one of my favourite things about volunteering as well!

 

Natalia Gruber

I got to learn both new skills in the positions I volunteer for, but about myself: There’s plenty of things I do and love today that I wouldn’t have imagined before. Being in the OTW has allowed me to discover a lot, and I’m very grateful  for all of it. <3

 

briar_pipe

Thank you all!

Our next question from chat was “All candidates again: If you had access to unlimited money and resources, what is one thing you would like to see happen in or with the OTW?”

 

Natalia Gruber

I think I would try to make the work of our coders a little easier xD We could do with strengthening our infrastructure, and as I mentioned in my Q&As, it’s getting really hard to keep up with the work the AO3 demands with such a small team, so, Legal concerns barred, it’d be good to look into paid staff.

Also, if the money is really unlimited, hosting other kinds of media beyond text would be good, to help protect vidders and artists, for example.

I also promised the people who beta-ed my platform ponies, so guess I’d do that. xD

 

Lex de Leon

While my immediate reaction of “a ball pit” is in jest, there are some benefits to one which cannot be discounted and I shall be investigating the feasibility of installing one in my house. In full seriousness, it would take collaboration with multiple committees to determine what would be best. Part of what drives the passion of the OTW at large is that we do this out of love for the Org and our mission. I’d hate to see that passion devolve until working with the Org become just another job.

I would anticipate that we’d want to see some significant investment in multiple areas, such as Systems, AD&T, Legal, just to name a couple that would need to weigh in. We have numerous other committees would could do with an influx, I’m sure, though I do not have information on what would be best at hand at the moment.

That said, I’m not above advocating for having an OTW ball pit at my house to my wife.

 

Michelle Schroeder

Again, for me, it’s really difficult to pick just one thing here, haha. I’d like to be able to take all that money and all those resources and put them into hiring paid staff for some positions, or put it towards buying new servers to keep everything running smoothly. Honestly, though, there’s so many good things we could get done with unlimited money, I could be here all night listing off things I’d want to see happen!

 

C. Ryan Smith

PRIVATE ISLAND!

I’ve said it several times throughout the various Q&A sets, but I think that it is fairly important for us to start working on employing or contracting out positions in order to supplement our critical personnel. That being said however, I am definitely not able to act as a spokesman for the entire organization. I think it would be incredibly important to work closely with all of the OTW committees to figure out where that money would best be suited to go.

 

Michelle Schroeder

Agreed, if we really did have unlimited money, I would definitely want to work with all the committees to find out what’s best for the Organization as a whole.

 

C. Ryan Smith

Though Nat talking about the media hosting aspect does make me think that if I could plop a bunch of money on one particular project, I think another important one would be internationalization of the Archive.

 

Natalia Gruber

Oh, yes please. xD

 

Lex de Leon

Absolutely, which goes off of the earlier point of talking to multiple committees. I, personally, have no idea what some committees would prefer! Absolutely first task in my opinion is to brainstorm all the ideas, then prioritize from there.

 

briar_pipe

Hahaha, okay, it sounds like we’re all enjoying ourselves in the open channel.

 

Natalia Gruber

There’s ponies there. xDD

 

briar_pipe

Bringing it back for a moment, we have a follow-up to one of the Q&A questions: “Where do you see OTW in ten years, and where would you like it to be? I suppose my biggest questions are in regard to Legal’s efforts in particular, and how OTW will be impacting the public sphere outside fannish activities in general?”

I know some of y’all talked about this briefly in your Q&A. Would anyone like to elaborate on your hopes?

 

Lex de Leon

I’d love to see Legal continue to be at the forefront of litigation challenges such as Articles 11 and 13 in the EU, and the continued struggle with copyright in the US. As it stands, there are multiple legal challenges to transformative works that have been allowed to continue unchecked, while concurrently works like the Star Wars Extended Universe was encouraged to grow. It’s been a kind of “do as I say, not as I do” situation for a long time and Legal has been crucial in altering this tide.

The OTW on the whole has already had a significant impact both within and outside of fannish circles. Resources such as FanLore are invaluable for explaining certain concepts one might not be comfortable linking to Urban Dictionary for, as one example. I’d like  to see the OTW able to continue to expand on these efforts, and to be able to continue to have successful challenges to overreaching litigation and censure that does not accurately reflect the world we live in.

 

Michelle Schroeder

I’d love to do more outreach into the public sphere! It’s not really in my wheelhouse, though, so I’d definitely want to talk to our Communications committee and our Legal committee to see what sort of ideas they have as far as further public outreach and additional legal efforts, but I’m happy to learn from them and support them however I can.

 

Natalia Gruber

Agreed with the above. Legal’s work has been incredibly valuable over the years in defending fannish culture and works, and I’d like to be able to support them in that mission. I’d discuss with the committee how could I be helpful to them, and what do they need to continue these efforts.

 

C. Ryan Smith

As Lex said above, Legal’s work is absolutely crucial to the continuance of transformative works in general and it always makes me feel that much safer that we have a team of experienced legal experts who work on challenging things that go against transformative works. I definitely think that we should be increasing our outreach (especially in fannish events like conventions).  Additionally, while I think that it is important that we remain accessible to the public sphere (otherwise, how would we draw in new victims fannish friends to share things with), right now our primary goal should be extending our outreach within fannish spaces (I know it might seem crazy, but I still encounter people who read fanfic and don’t know what AO3 is!) and that will in time lead to more public outreach as our “name brand” grows.

 

Lex de Leon

Excellent point, I agree with extending our outreach in fannish spaces!

 

briar_pipe

That all sounds great!

It’s been brought to my attention that we only have 25 minutes left and lots of questions, so we’ll do our best to speed up and get through as many of these as possible. If we have overflow, we’ll bring them to the next chat, but we’ll try to tackle as many as possible today.

The next one is long. I’ve trimmed out the quote to help it be easier to read, but feel free to go look at the quote in the chat or at the link.

“All candidates. AO3 is likely the first way many fannish folks come into contact with OTW, and the Tag Wrangling guidelines are therefore likely to be the first anyone sees of the volunteer work and decisions that make up the OTW. How do you think the principle of User Primacy (quoted below) from the First Principles page ( https://archiveofourown.org/wrangling_guidelines/16 ) relates to the OTW as a whole?”

 

Lex de Leon

Tag Wrangling, as vital as it is to the Archive, is typically invisible to the end users. While of supreme importance for organization and searchability, it is similarly a quiet, largely unseen aspect. That said, all of the OTW at large is adherent to reflecting how people actually interact with fandom and fannish spaces. We exist as an organization because we are here to meet the needs of fans, both ourselves and those we will never meet or even be aware of.

I’m definitely pleased to see that someone is appreciative of the importance of the work that Tag Wranglers do! They definitely do not get as much visibility as other aspects of the organization.

 

C. Ryan Smith

Well, I’m not sure that it really can relate to the OTW as a whole. Those seem to be rather specifically written for Tag Wrangling and AO3. I mean, outside of the problems of trying to apply that to work that isn’t in the same format, shall we say, there is also the issue that we really only have one other “user facing” project, which is Fanlore. I say user facing in the sense that it is something that users can create an account for and immediately begin to publish work through (in this case, articles rather than fan works). Given that Fanlore is its own project, I’m relatively certain they have their own similar policies.

 

Natalia Gruber

I think User Primacy is a very important concept and something we always need to keep in mind when making decisions that affect our users. Most our policies are drafted with that in mind, as they should! I agree with Lex that the fact people have been reading the wrangling guidelines is amazing!  But as Ryan put it, this does affect AO3 related committees more directly than others. 🙂

 

Michelle Schroeder

I think the first thing people should see of the volunteer work and decisions that make up the OTW would be better found in the About Us page or the About the Archive FAQ, but as that link says, we are guided by what the users do, not what we might wish they would do, haha. Still, like Nat said, User Primacy does affect how we create our policies, so I do think it’s very important for the Archive side of things, at least.

 

briar_pipe

Thank you all so much!

We’re going to try to get one more question in before the bell.

Apologies to the last 2 people waiting – we’ll ask your questions at the start of the next chat.

Final question: “All candidates: What steps will you take to ensure the board stays active in addition to being reactive, e.g.  actively making goals for different projects and following up on them even while there’s maintenance and new issues to deal with? Or like making sure that that’s happening in committees themselves”

 

Lex de Leon

Maintaining regular meetings and discussions is a way to make sure that the Board itself has a good handle on its own priorities, and those of the rest of the committees. Sometimes  its as simple as something like I’ve seen during Agile meetings at work – a quick “status on this ongoing task?” Other times, there is a necessity for larger meetings or discussions which need be undertaken. Being involved in this, for me, means asking questions and making sure I know what is going on around me. I would plan to actively listen and learn what progress there is, and what goals are coming forward, in addition to asking about future advancement.

In short, a lot of lists, and a lot of questions.

 

C. Ryan Smith

I know that I’ve said this a bunch in various places in my Bio/Platform and Q&A sets, but I’m happy to say it again. It is definitely super important for the Board to remain active within the organization; however, it is also important to realize that it isn’t necessarily the Board’s place to be setting goals for our projects or committees. The Board should be able to consult with and assist committees in formulating goals but definitely not prescribing them. That runs the risk of silencing the people who know better than we potentially would or could. So, in short, we need to maintain a pretty consistent line of communication within the organization between the Board and the committees in order to support them!

 

Natalia Gruber

As a Board member, I’d like to be able to support committee members as much as possible in establishing and pursuing their own goals. I know some committees really struggle to keep up with their day-to-day work, so I’d try to communicate with them and see how the Board could help. I think listening and ensuring they have the necessary resources to move their goals forward is one of the most important aspects of Board work. We can’t know everything, or tell people what to do, but we can be present so committees are able to lean on us.

 

Michelle Schroeder

Not to sound like a broken record, but one step I would take is to talk to our Strategic Planning committee, who deal with our long term goals as an organization. They also help committees come up with goals to work towards, which helps us move forward as a whole. So I’d definitely want to talk with them about further steps to take as far as making goals and following up on them! It also would help to continue talking with all the committees – we can stay more active in helping committees with goals if we’re actively communicating with everyone and getting them what help they want or need.

 

C. Ryan Smith

To piggyback off of what Michelle said about consulting with the Strategic Planning Committee (which was a great point, by the way!), all of the various committees and projects are currently working on roadmaps in order to help guide them in the future. I don’t think these will be published publicly, but they will definitely be helpful for us as they’ll give us more concrete points to work towards rather than throwing darts at the proverbial target and going “okay, let’s work on that now!”

 

briar_pipe

Great point!

On that note, we’re a bit past the scheduled end time, so I’m going to bring this chat to a close. Thank you to our audience for being so supportive and for submitting questions! <3

Thank you also to our lovely candidates.

Thanks to Judy, for modding her first ever chat.

 

Natalia Gruber

Thank you for hosting!

 

briar_pipe

We will have one more chat with all the candidates next weekend, at https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20180728T2030